Analysis Of Irony In George Orwell’s 1984

Irony is a literary term that has three subcategories and is commonly used in writing. The three types of irony are dramatic irony, situational irony, and verbal irony. In ​1984 ​by George Orwell, all three subcategories of irony are used to highlight the injustice that the majority of people suffer in Oceania. As the plot progresses, it becomes apparent that the irony is deeply embedded in the government’s official motto, their actions, and even the names of their official government buildings. Along with highlighting the injustice in Oceania, the irony used in ​1984 also emphasizes central themes and makes the reader stop and analyze the true meaning behind certain phrases. If not analyzed, it is possible to fall into the same mindset as the majority of people that the English Socialist Party (Ingsoc) of Oceania controls.

The first examples of irony that we can spot in ​1984 is the irony in the party’s motto, “​War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength”. One important thing to note about this motto is that these words are etched on a building named the “Ministry of Truth”, which conveys that in the world Orwell has constructed they are meant to be the absolute truth. The motto is an example of verbal irony, and it is clear that there are three contradictions present in this phrase. The first contradiction in the phrase is “War is Peace”, and it suggests to the people of Oceania that they must endure the hardships of war in order to receive peace. This leads to a never ending feeling of pressure, shortages, and a sense of urgency that is accepted since citizens easily reason that their country is fighting in a war. With this mentality, the government is able to control their citizens, even when they switch to fighting a new country on a whim. The second contradiction present in Ingsoc’s motto is “Freedom is Slavery”, which encourages people to submit to the government to avoid the consequences they’ll receive if they refuse to do so. However, it is clear that Ingsoc has twisted the meaning of freedom to better benefit themselves so citizens will blindly follow their orders. The final part of the motto, “Ignorance is Strength”, serves as a sort of comfort after citizens are told two contradictions that don’t make sense at first. It communicates that if citizens disregard the contradictions in the phrase and deem this as fact, the Party as a whole will become stronger. This eliminates the idea of autonomy and encourages people to always think of themselves as part of the party and never as an individual person.

Another aspect of irony that is present in ​1984 ​are the names of official government buildings. There are a total of three buildings, and they are the Ministry of Truth, the Ministry of Love, and the Ministry of Peace. The names of these buildings are ironic because they are named after the opposite of what they truly represent. The Ministry of Truth specializes in changing records of the past and manufacturing lies that cover up any irregularities that suggest Big Brother has ever stated anything incorrect. The Ministry of Love enforces the laws of Ingsoc, and they carry out punishments and torture on any political prinsoners that go against them. Lastly, the Ministry of Peace supervises and organizes war to make sure that the country always maintains a common enemy and a sense of urgency.

Although the ironies spoken about previously are vital to the plot of ​1984​, the most important use of irony in the novel has to do with our protagonists Winston Smith and Julia. In the beginning of the novel it is evident that Winston holds resentment towards the ideology of Ingsoc. This remains true throughout the majority of the novel, but changes once he is caught with his lover, Julia. The first time that Winston sees Julia he notices that, “The emblem of the Junior Anti-Sex League was wound several times around the waist of her overalls, just tightly enough to bring out the shapeliness of her hips”. With this visual information in mind, Winston assumes that Julia is extremely loyal to the English Socialist Party. However, it turns out that Julia herself is an example of irony, since she is a participant of the Junior Anti-Sex League, but has had sex with over a hundred people. Many of her sexual relationships were with party members, which is an extreme risk and direct violation of the rules Ingsoc enforces. When Winston and Julia become lovers, it becomes obvious to the reader and the protagonists themselves that their sexual and romantic escapades cannot last forever. This creates dramatic irony since Winston and Julia don’t think that the government is watching their exchanges, but we as readers know that Big Brother is always watching. The ultimate irony in 1984 ​occurs after Winston and Julia are both tortured by the Ministry of Love and no longer love each other. The irony is that throughout the story, Winston has harboured hatred for the English Socialist Party, but at the end of the book admits that, “He loved Big Brother”. This example of irony shows how the government was able to change Winston’s strong-willed mentality through physical and psychological torture, even when he was convinced that there was a way to overthrow Ingsoc at first.

Through George Orwell’s ​1984 ​readers can note how irony is used to enhance the injustice and blatant lies that are fed to the citizens of Oceania. By analyzing the examples of irony present in this dystopian future, it is clear that these confusing contradictions are weapons that the English Socialist Party uses to intimidate and force citizens into believing that individuality, familial love, and autonomy are not necessary. Although Winston and Julia and Winston try to fight against these contradictions, they fail and end up attaining the mentality that Ingsoc has forced upon them.

09 March 2021
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